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News digest – cancer waiting times, complementary treatments, obesity and a NASA-style training for cancer patients?

by Gabriella Beer | Analysis

16 November 2019

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Shape-shifting melanoma cells.

Cancer waiting time targets missed since 2015

The most recent figures reveal hospital performance in England is at its worst level on record and cancer waiting time targets have been missed since 2015. According to BBC News, slightly more than 76 in 100 cancer patients are starting treatment within 62 days of being urgently referred by a GP, when the target is 85 in 100.

Tackling melanoma treatment resistance

Blocking a survival mechanism in melanoma cells could tackle resistance to treatment, reports the Mail Online. Our scientists have shown that hitting these advanced cancers with a double whammy attack shrank tumours in mice, as our press release explains.

Women from ethnic minority backgrounds face more barriers to seeking medical help

Our research shows that women from ethnic minority backgrounds report around twice as many barriers than white women to seeking help for potential cancer symptoms. Researchers now hope to find ways to help people overcome some of these barriers so everyone has the best chance of surviving their cancer.

More research needed for hard-to-treat cancers

People with the 6 deadliest forms of cancer are dying due to a lack of research, reports the Mail Online. The figures on research spending were released by the Less Survivable Cancers Taskforce, a coalition of charities aiming to double survival rates in diseases such as pancreatic, stomach and lung cancer.

Labour pledges to spend more on NHS

The NHS is already becoming a hot topic for debate in the 2019 General Election campaign. And BBC News reports the latest promise from the Labour party: to spend more on the health service in England.

Some complementary treatments ‘do more harm than good’

Professor Maria Joao Cardoso, speaking at a cancer conference, warned that some herbal products can interfere with cancer drugs and advised doctors to ask their patients what other treatments they might be taking. But a breast cancer surgeon also said that therapies like acupuncture may have a positive impact on people’s quality of life during treatment.

Should doctors give patients a prognosis?

The Telegraph covers thoughts from the same conference in Australia about whether people with cancer should be given a prognosis. Experts discussed whether giving an exact estimate of how long they had left to live was the best way to present information to patients and why these estimates aren’t always accurate.

UK obesity continues to climb

Nearly 30 in 100 people in England are now are obese, reports the Guardian. And the number of people over the age of 16 years old who are obese has almost doubled in the last 20 years. The new stats from Diabetes UK shows that urgent action is needed from the government to support people to eat more healthily.

Ethnic minority researchers receive less funding

The Independent reports new stats that show ethnic minority researchers are less likely to receive funding for their research than their white colleagues. And white applicants were also awarded more money, receiving £670,000 on average while those from minority backgrounds got £564,000.

Private bowel cancer checks miss or fail to prevent more cancers than NHS

Bowel cancer screening tests carried out by private healthcare providers in the UK are less reliable than those done in the NHS, according to new figures compiled by UK Research and Innovation. The new report revealed variation in the number of bowel cancers diagnosed 6 months to 3 years after screening appointments. Read the Mail Online for more.

And finally…

The bodies of astronauts in space may be under similar physical strains as those of cancer patients, according to experts. The Telegraph reports on a study that found some surprising similarities between the two groups of people, such as muscle and bone loss. They suggest doctors could take note of NASA’s training programme to help prepare people for treatment.